BOOK CLUB

FROM A SUSPENSEFU­L PLOT THAT PLAYS OUT IN MEL­BOURNE TO A SCI-FI FORAY AT THE END OF THE WORLD, IT’S EASY TO ES­CAPE IN THESE PAGES

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THE AU­TUMN MURDERS Robert Gott SCRIBE,$30

Set in 1944 Mel­bourne, this mas­terly sus­pense novel by Robert Gott had me read­ing all night. Al­though it’s the third in a se­ries, this was my first — and it stands alone as a great in­di­vid­ual read. The Mel­bourne land­marks are both fa­mil­iar and strange as we see them through a his­toric end-of-war veil. The oper­a­tions at the old Rus­sell St po­lice sta­tion and the foren­sics and po­lice pro­ce­dures of the era are also fas­ci­nat­ing. How­ever, it’s the rapid-fire sto­ry­line and ex­pert plot­ting that make this novel a quick read, while great char­ac­ters and as­tute so­cial ob­ser­va­tions will keep you glued to the pages and in­vested in the out­come. There are sev­eral themes within the book — anti-semitism, sex­ism, re­li­gious fer­vour and a touch of class con­flict. The pe­riod was also when the worst of the Ger­man atroc­i­ties were first be­ing re­ported. Also a car­toon­ist, Gott’s quirky hu­mour shows through in this some­times griz­zly crime novel.

KA­RINA BAR­RY­MORE VER­DICT: Su­perb sus­pense

DE­FEAT­ING THE MIN­IS­TERS OF DEATH David Isaacs HARPERCOLL­INS, $35

Through­out his­tory, dis­eases have killed more peo­ple than wars. As re­cently as 1950, an es­ti­mated 10 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide died from small­pox alone. Go back fur­ther and the death rates sky­rocket. Span­ish flu killed more than 50 mil­lion peo­ple in 1919. In ear­lier cen­turies, the fig­ures may not be so huge, but only be­cause the world’s pop­u­la­tion was smaller. “Na­ture is the world’s great­est ter­ror­ist,” writes Aus­tralian pae­di­a­tri­cian Isaacs in this fas­ci­nat­ing his­tory of the fight against in­fec­tions. From the plagues of an­cient times and the Mid­dle Ages, to the lat­est im­mu­ni­sa­tion tech­niques and the on­go­ing bat­tle to erad­i­cate dis­eases in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, Isaacs not only il­lu­mi­nates the char­ac­ters and break­throughs be­hind vac­ci­na­tions, but con­fronts the wil­ful ig­no­rance of peo­ple to­day. The grow­ing num­ber of an­ti­vac­ci­na­tion devo­tees would do well to read this be­fore putting the rest of so­ci­ety at risk.

JEFF MAYNARD VER­DICT: Crucial

A BOY AND HIS DOG AT THE END OF THE WORLD C.A. Fletcher HACHETTE AUS­TRALIA, $33

What would you do if a stranger stole one of your beloved dogs? You would prob­a­bly post it on In­sta­gram, Snapchat or Face­book, but imag­ine if none of those ex­isted; that you were born af­ter the mod­ern world had ended and your un­der­stand­ing of the past was gar­nered from old books. Cities have re­verted to na­ture, there is no tech­nol­ogy and the hu­man race faces ex­tinc­tion. In that case you would most likely do the same as young Gritz; hunt the thief and try to get your dog back. Gritz sails to the main­land, find­ing rem­nants of the past, other hu­mans and a whole heap of trou­ble. By us­ing the first-per­son nar­ra­tive, Fletcher gives the reader the feel­ing they are view­ing the jour­ney through a dash­cam and not just through Gritz’s writ­ings. As the adventure un­folds, sur­vival be­comes the name of the game but the hunt is def­i­nitely worth it.

WENDY MA­SON VER­DICT: Heart­felt sci-fi

HOW IT FEELS TO FLOAT He­lena Fox PAN MACMIL­LAN, $18

A jour­ney of love, grief, fam­ily and friend­ship, this young adult de­but is raw and in­sight­ful. Set by the sea in Wol­lon­gong, the story fol­lows 17year-old Biz as she grap­ples with her iden­tity and sex­u­al­ity. Fol­low­ing an in­ci­dent in­volv­ing lies, sex and drama, Biz’s men­tal health spi­rals. Out­cast by her cir­cle of friends, Biz drops out of school and her chaotic thoughts mag­nify un­til she feels out­side of her body, as though she is float­ing. Still strug­gling with the death of her fa­ther a decade ago, Biz doesn’t tell any­one that she still sees him. Drawn to the new boy at school, she con­stantly won­ders what he thinks and how he feels. Even­tu­ally, he be­comes a con­fi­dant and life­line for Biz — per­haps a bud­ding romance. Over­all, Biz’s jour­ney with men­tal ill­ness is har­row­ing, yet in­spir­ing and hopeful. De­spite the dark­ness and chaos as she copes with the loss of friend­ship and death of her fa­ther, she sees light ahead. Biz’s story is a pow­er­ful mes­sage, re­mind­ing us of all the beau­ti­ful and fright­en­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties in life.

JESSICA EWERT

VER­DICT: Thought pro­vok­ing

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